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McConnell-allied group hits Heidi Heitkamp on Syria with ad showing footage of chemical weapons attack
By Al Weaver
A super PAC run by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is launching a new ad attacking Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., for comments she made five years ago about the role of the Russians in Syria.
In the new digital ad, the Senate Leadership Fund includes footage of an interview Heitkamp did with MSNBC in 2013 where she says that the U.S. should “trust the Russians” to come to the table and have Syrian President Bashar Assad abandon his weapons. The comment is followed by footage showing dead Syrians after the recent chemical weapon attack by Assad against Syrian opposition forces.
“Heidi Heitkamp: Not wrong. Dead wrong,” the ad charged.
At the time, Heitkamp was one of the few Democrats to oppose President Obama’s 2013 push for a resolution to approve military force in Syria after Assad used chemical weapons and killed 1,400 that August. The North Dakota Democrat was pushing legislation with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., to seek a diplomatic alternative in Syria and give the Assad regime 45 days to sign a chemical weapons ban.
In a statement, the North Dakota Democrat’s campaign said Heitkamp has been working to hold Russia accountable “in a strategic way,” before hitting Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., her challenger for the seat, over his silence on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“Russia must be held accountable for its actions – and Heidi has been working to do that in a strategic way since coming to the U.S. Senate,” said Julia Krieger, a Heitkamp spokeswoman. “But let’s be clear – there is no question that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and Kevin Cramer has remained silent about Russia meddling in our democracy. That should be of concern to every North Dakotan.”
Russia has now been blamed by President Trump and others for Assad’s April 7 chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma, Syria. Moreover, the Russian government has served as Assad’s most important ally in recent years.
On Wednesday, President Trump responded to reports that Russia plans to shoot down any missiles heading toward Syria from the U.S. or its allies. He said that the relationship with the Russians is “worse now than it has ever been” and warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against being allies with a “Gas Killing Animal.”
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!'” Trump said. “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War,” he continued. “There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”
The president went on to walk back the tweet and said no decision has been made about air strikes. However, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that his government has proof that Assad’s forces carried out the attack, which they have denied.
Heitkamp is one of 10 Senate Democrats running for re-election in the fall, and one of the top targets for Republicans as they hope to retain their majority in the upper chamber.